Searching for your next great adventure? This Sweet July series taps top travel enthusiasts to share first-hand insight into their ventures across the country and world, so you know exactly what to expect and how to prepare once you book your ticket. Wishing you safe—and sweet—travels!
Today: Nicole Froio shares her top tips for vacationing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Rio de Janeiro is a sprawling, vivid seaside city on the coast of Brazil, most commonly known for its beaches, stunning landscape and Carnival celebrations. A former capital of its country during colonial times, Rio is a great place to visit all year round. In the summer, the gorgeous, hot weather allows for beach trips and street parties; in winter, you can still catch some good weather, go to public parks and museums, and experience a vivid nightlife full of live music.
After living in Rio on and off for seven years, identifying recommendations was difficult. Rio is a massive city, full of different worlds and cultures—there’s truly something for everybody. If you desire peace, you can go read a book at the beach. If you want to listen to live music, you can head down to Lapa to see a samba performance. If you want to dance, you can take advantage of the lively nightlife
FOR A BUDGET: CASA PORTO
Casa Porto is the perfect restaurant for eating affordable Brazilian food while experiencing the country’s rich culture. Located in one of the colonial houses in Largo São Francisco da Prainha in the neighborhood of Gamboa—where musicians often perform samba and pagode—Casa Porto serves homey, local food in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, with different specials each day that range from feijoada (an Afro-Brazilian bean and pork stew), a variety of cuts of meat and homemade potato chips. Bonus: there’s a wonderful view of the square from the restaurant’s balcony.
FOR A SPLURGE: CLÁSSICO BEACH CLUB URCA
With one of the most breathtaking views of Rio, Clássico Beach Club Urca (not to be confused with its other locations around the city, which are similarly surrounded by Rio’s unique landscapes) is located on the Sugar Loaf mountain. The restaurant offers a variety of seafood, tapas and lush cocktails, which can be enjoyed while watching the sunset from one of the highest points in the city.
FOR A BUDGET: SANTA VISTA RIO
In the hills of the bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, there’s a little paradise where you can see one of the best views of the whole city. The Santa Vista Hotel is an 11-room boutique hotel with a hilltop position. From the hotel’s main terrace, guests can see Guanabara Bay, the green hills of Santa Teresa, while also enjoying the view of the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. Additionally, Santa Vista Rio is located in one of Rio’s most picturesque neighborhoods, where you will be able to experience the city’s nightlife.
FOR A SPLURGE: HOTEL ARPOADOR
Have you ever wanted to feel the breeze of the sea while softly swinging on a hammock without a single care in the world? This is the place to do it: Hotel Arpoador’s rooms have privileged views of Ipanema beach, where you can drink a caipirinha while watching the waves from your balcony. The hotel also has a terrace bar, a spa, a pool, a gym and beach services. This is the most luxurious way to experience Rio’s beach culture.
FOR A BUDGET: PARQUE LAGE
Parque Lage, modeled after European gardens in the 1800s, is a free public park located in the neighborhood of Jardim Botanico. In addition to 52 hectares of biodiversity, Parque Lage also has a gorgeous palace where you can get brunch and coffee. Whether you want to go for a long walk under the trees or hike up the Corcovado Mountain, this is a free way to get your steps in and meditate on nature.
FOR A SPLURGE: PRAINHA
The only way to get to Prainha, a small beach surrounded by the Atlantic Forest near the neighborhood of Barra, is by car or bus shuttle. The beach is so small and so difficult to reach that it’s almost always empty, almost like a private beach. The quiosques in the upper part of the beach serve delicious seafood and fresh coconut water.
FOR A BUDGET: AFROFUNK RIO DANCE CLASS
When I first went to an AfroFunk Rio dance class, I didn’t expect to feel so liberated by the one-hour twerking class. Created by Black women from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, AfroFunk classes focus on breaking body-related taboos through dance and the reclamation of joy. The teacher, Taísa Machado, encourages attendees to shake their booties and let go of any body shame.
FOR A SPLURGE: CARNAVAL IN SAPUCAÍ SAMBADROME
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival is the world’s biggest Carnival celebration, if not the largest party in the world period. While you can go to the free street parties to celebrate the holiday—which takes place in late February—a more luxurious option is to watch the official parades from the luxury boxes in the Sambadrome. Carnival in the Sambadrome is a competition: samba schools compete to show they can put on the best show, showcasing floats, costumes and music with specific themes. Some luxury boxes packages can include a full buffet, a bilingual guide, open bar and security. In some cases, you might be able to rent a costume and be in the parade as well.
What To Pack
The sun shines very brightly in Rio, so don’t forget to pack a strong SPF sunscreen (like Black Girl Sunscreen) and to reapply it every few hours, even if you’re not on the beach. Mosquito repellent is also essential.
A crossbody bag can be a good companion for most travel and particularly great for sightseeing in Rio, where you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking. I’ve been loving this traveler-friendly Sadie Crosspack from Sarep + Rose. Apparel-wise, I recommend that you bring summer clothes—crop tops, bikinis, shorts, skirts and flowy dresses—and only a couple of light sweaters if you’re visiting in the winter.